Ever wonder why we listen to some songs over and over? Our brains love music. Much of this interplay focuses on the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. If we were to give someone a pill to modify the amount of dopamine released, how would that impact the music we like (and even purchase)? An international team of neuroscientists wanted to investigate this very thing.
This double-blind study, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), exposed 27 participants to one of three pharmacological supplements that affect the amount of dopamine released while listening to music. With a minimum of 1 week between sessions, participants consumed a pill to increase or decrease the level of dopamine while listening to music tracks, one of which was their favorite song. The third session was a placebo and was used as the control. Researchers monitored levels of pleasure and motivation as each participant listened to the music for each session.
The results found when the participant’s dopamine levels were modified, the willingness to purchase music changed. More dopamine meant more likely to buy, less dopamine, less likely to buy. This finding highlights a causal link between the hedonic effects of dopamine and motivation (willingness to buy) while listening to music.
Where the findings replication is still needed, the study appears to have uncovered a new linkage between dopamine and abstract rewards. Not only may this explain why we listen to songs over and over, but also some of the insights that motivate us to purchase or fave a piece of music…
This was Article 108 from the Studio Quick Facts Series.
Ferreri, L., Mas-Herrero, E., Zatorre, R. J., Ripollés, P., Gomez-Andres, A., Alicart, H., … & Riba, J. (2019). Dopamine modulates the reward experiences elicited by music. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201811878.
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The Brain’s Perception of Rhythm — Studio Quick Facts — Medium. (2017). Medium. Retrieved 27 January 2019, from https://medium.com/studio-quick-facts/the-brains-perception-of-rhythm-c79d5d43a60f
Your Music Predicts How You Think… — Studio Quick Facts — Medium. (2015). Medium. Retrieved 27 January 2019, from https://medium.com/studio-quick-facts/your-music-predicts-how-you-think-c0a55b4f2eec